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WIth minutes remaining in the game, things did not look pretty for the Hoosiers. Fran Dunphy had his Temple squad controlling the East region’s #1-seeded Indiana Hoosiers - and had them right where he wanted them.
Khalif Wyatt, the Owls’ leading scorer, was scoring at will. Indiana coach Tom Crean tried Will Sheehey on him; he tried Remy Abell on him; he put Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Victor Oladipo on him most of the game. Nobody could keep Wyatt in check.
That was the case up until about six minutes remained in the game. Wyatt was leading all scorers with 31 points. Wyatt finished with 31 points. The Hoosiers shut him down in the final minutes and pulled out the 58-52 victory, advancing to the Sweet 16 regional in Washington, D.C.
Oladipo scored 16 points - including a big-time three-point basket in the final seconds - and pulled down eight rebounds, to lead Indiana. Cody Zeller added 15 points and six rebounds, while Sheehey contributed 10 points off the bench.
Christian Watford joined Oladipo in the big-play category with an outstanding block that helped Indiana gain momentum down the stretch. Senior guard Jordan Hulls of the Hoosiers called it the “biggest play of the year.”
That was the moment Hoosiers fans were waiting for. The momentum-changing play of the game. It was long overdue after Temple controlled the pace of the game for 35+ minutes. The Owls forced Indiana into a half-court game, something the Hoosiers don’t particularly enjoy. Crean prefers an up-tempo transition game with points coming in bunches.
The style of play on Sunday, countered with Wyatt’s elite scoring ability, helped Temple maintain the advantage for most of the contest.
A Hulls mid-range jump shot, followed by the Watford block and two free throws by Zeller tied things up at 52 apiece with less than two minutes to play. One-for-two at the line from Oladipo and the game-clinching three-pointer made it an 8-0 run for Indiana with the game ultimately out of reach for Temple.
Wyatt then forced a long three, Watford controlled the rebound and was fouled. He sank both free throws as the Hoosiers ended the game on a 10-0 run en route to their second consecutive Sweet 16 berth in as many tournament appearances under Crean.
Indiana lost the battle of the fifty-fifty balls and the turnover differential but managed to win the war of the game. They will face Syracuse on Thursday. Tipoff TBA.
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The first of two days made up of the second round games of the NCAA Tournament already compiled some interesting outcomes.
Sixteen teams will be moving on to the third round, or in other words the round of 32, but they may not be the teams you would have expected. However, as normally expected, that is due to the phrase “March Madness,” that has been deemed to this tournament. The phrase simply explains the drama taking place in college basketball, which include upset victories, amazing scoring plays and, of course, last-second buzzer-beaters!
Some may not be entirely caught up with the action after Thursday’s games. Many on the East Coast may have also missed the fourth wave of games that began well after the nine o’clock hour Eastern Time. My job is to get YOU caught up on all the action:
A couple blowouts…
Whew! Close call…
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Minnesota wanted it more than Indiana on Tuesday night at Williams Area, also known as The Barn.
It was almost clear within the first few minutes of the game that the Golden Gophers were out to prove something. Out to prove they belong in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Out to prove they weren’t a pushover in a stacked Big Ten Conference.
From what I saw, it was most evident with just over 13 minutes remaining in the first half that the outcome did not look good for the Hoosiers. That was the moment Trevor Mbakwe of the Gophers headed to the bench for his first breather of the contest. Mbakwe received a standing ovation from the home crowd for scoring all of his team’s first eight points and 12 of their first 16.
Mbakwe, along with the rest of his teammates, wanted this game more than Indiana did. For Tom Crean’s Hoosiers, it was a 77-73 loss they should use as a motivator. Similar to the Illinois loss Indiana suffered a couple weeks ago when they blew an eight-point lead with around four minutes to play, this was Minnesota informing the Hoosiers to stay humble. Play within the system.
After, arguably, Indiana’s biggest win in the past decade at Michigan State last week, they were feeling good about themselves. As they should. They had every right to. They hadn’t won at the Breslin Center in almost 20 years (17 trips). That’s a long, long time, folks.
However, another tough game followed the Michigan State win. A journey to The Barn awaited Indiana and they knew Minnesota was desperate for a win. The teams competed. Indiana played tough, but the Golden Gophers played tougher. Minnesota was golden en route to their biggest victory of the season and one that could help them earn a tourney bid.
Where I believe this game was decided is in the rebounding category. And yes, I am aware this is stating the obvious. Everyone knows what Trevor Mbakwe did - 21 points on 8-10 shooting with 12 rebounds (six offensive). But… BUT… he did so by out-hustling Cody Zeller and Christian Watford combined. Zeller and Watford combined for 17 points and nine boards.
And yes, I am speaking of Zeller, the preseason All-American and Watford, the four-year starter for one of the nation’s most dominant basketball programs in the history of the sport.
Zeller scored nine points on 2-9 shooting with four turnovers. He also fouled out of the game. Watford only played 18 minutes because of early foul trouble, and thus only attempted five shots. FIVE. The senior scored eight points and grabbed two rebounds. Six of his eight points came in the final 60 seconds on a couple of desperate three-point shots when Indiana was attempting a rally.
If you are the kind of person that enjoys Big Ten basketball, then you know what it means to be a four-year starter in the conference. That player, athlete, gentleman is expected to lead. Ahem, Draymond Green.
Robbie Hummel. John Shurna. Jordan Taylor.
Those are just a handful of names from the past 5+ years.
No need to remind me about the Kentucky shot Watford drilled last year in an upset victory at Assembly Hall. Or the monster threes he hit last week against Michigan State. I know of all the big shots Watford has made in his time as a Hoosier. But against the Gophers, Watford was nowhere to be seen.
I’ll side with Dan Dakich in this argument. Indiana is clearly the best team in the country when Christian Watford comes to play. He didn’t come to play at The Barn. Mbakwe led his Golden boys to victory.
—Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearing the end of January, Indiana players knew they had a tough stretch ahead of them. Three games in one week - two at home against ranked foes and a road contest at arch rival Purdue in between - would certainly determine where the Hoosiers might sit in the Big Ten standings 14 days later.
Those two weeks would be after a 72-49 rout of Penn State at home on January 23 and before a road matchup at Illinois this coming Thursday.
#7 Indiana 75, #13 Michigan State 70.
#3 Indiana 97, Purdue 60.
#3 Indiana 81, #1 Michigan 73.
Tom Crean coached his Hoosiers to three wins in three opportunities during that week, or those 14 days, and the cream and crimson slid into the top seed in the Big Ten. Indiana was also voted No. 1 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today college basketball polls on Monday, February 4.
It is the first time Indiana has been No. 1 in either poll since being upset by Butler on December 15 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Hoosiers did it by playing solid basketball against an annually well-coached Michigan State team under the guidance of Tom Izzo. With help from the home crowd and a 21-point, seven-rebound, six-steal outing from Victor Oladipo, Indiana held on to beat the Spartans 75-70.
That victory - and losses by others ahead of them in the rankings - moved Indiana up to No. 3 in both polls on Monday, January 28. They took momentum into a raucous Mackey Arena for a showdown with the Boilermakers midweek with the game of the week versus Michigan in the back of their minds.
Purdue was able to keep the game within reach for the first few minutes. The black and gold trailed 18-17 about midway through the first half before a 9-0 run by Indiana put the Boilers in a double-digit hole. Another quick run of 13-0 from the Hoosiers was simply too much to handle for Purdue as they trailed 47-27 at the break.
Halftime did not alter the momentum, hence Indiana dropped 50 more points against Matt Painter’s crew en route - literally - to an enormous victory. The 97-60 blowout was the largest margin of victory by any team on Purdue’s home floor.
Then the real hype began. A Saturday night showdown featuring then-No. 1 Michigan facing then-No. 3 Indiana. ESPN’s “College GameDay” airing their production from Assembly Hall in front of 5,000 fans. A sellout for the Top-5 matchup on Branch McCracken Court. A second consecutive time in as many trips that a No. 1 left Bloomington having been defeated by the Hoosiers.
Indiana was able to jump out to an early 20-7 lead over the Wolverines by creating offense from their defense. IU pushed the lead to 15 while the first half began to get away from Michigan. Trey Burke had other ideas in mind. The blue and maize cut the lead to seven with seconds remaining before Burke nailed a three over Indiana’s Will Sheehey to cut Indiana’s margin to four, 36-32, at halftime.
John Beilein coached his Wolverines into a tie ballgame at 40 apiece early in the second half. Michigan stayed with Indiana for most of the second half. Trailing 57-55, Victor Oladipo broke down Michigan’s defense for a drive to the basket. Defenders watched as the ball bounced off the rim and Cody Zeller was there for the put-back slam.
On Indiana’s next possession, it was deja vu. An Oladipo drive-and-miss followed by a Zeller rebound slam. Indiana led 61-55 and had regained its first half confidence.
It seemed as though Indiana had an answer for every Michigan run, and then Michigan had no answer for a late 7-2 Indiana run that sealed the victory for the Hoosiers. Indiana led 71-62 with just under two minutes to play and they hit all 10 of their free throws down the stretch for an 81-73 win.
The Hoosier faithful of 17,472 never sat down for 40 minutes.
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Wisconsin did what Wisconsin does.
Since becoming head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team in 2001, Bo Ryan has instilled a stingy defensive attack into his players’ minds. Thus the reason his teams have never had a losing record in Big Ten Conference play.
There is also good reason the Badgers entered a raucous Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana on Tuesday night and came out with a 64-59 victory over the No. 2-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
That reason - Wisconsin’s remarkable defense - coincides with how Wisconsin has been able to defeat Indiana eleven straight times. Nine of those eleven have come during Tom Crean’s tenure with the Hoosiers.
Since you are wondering what Wisconsin did at Indiana Tuesday night, re-read the headline of this article. They paced the Hoosiers. That is what the Badgers do. In fact, Wisconsin doesn’t win this game if they had not controlled the tempo. Crean had Indiana leading the nation at just over 87 points per game, and only Butler has been able to keep up with that so far this season; they were the first team to defeat the Hoosiers.
It is no secret that Ryan operates his offensive sets at a slow pace, which in turn keeps the ball out of the opposition’s hands more often than not. Countless times, I watched as Indiana played great defense for 32-34 seconds before a Badger knocked down an incredible shot.
Wisconsin’s half-court offense is so slow that no opponent has scored 60 points against them in the last seven games, over a month of action. Those seven contests have all resulted in wins for Ryan’s squad.
Fifth-year senior Ryan Evans led the Badgers with 13 points on 6-11 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. Evans hit a crucial jump-shot over Indiana’s Victor Oladipo as the shot clock expired late in the game. Prior to that jumper, the Hoosiers were riding a 10-1 run that pulled them within one point, 52-51. Evans’ shot was one of the many Wisconsin knocked down late in the shot clock.
Cody Zeller was undoubtedly the star of the game, posting 23 points on 9-15 field goals and pulling down ten boards. None of it mattered, though, as the Badgers took over sole possession of the Big Ten with a 4-0 conference record.
Conference play is still sprouting for the 2012-2013 season, but this game showed that Wisconsin will go as far as their seniors take them.
As for Indiana, I wouldn’t expect another low-scoring game from them for awhile. The offense never found its rhythm. Senior Jordan Hulls didn’t play like himself. All I can say is I wouldn’t want to be a part of that practice after such performance in front of the usual capacity crowd.
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After pulling away from Georgia in the second half of the semifinal game on Monday, Indiana knew it was going to get a much bigger test on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.
Georgetown was able to pull the upset of No. 11 UCLA in the second semifinal game Monday and move on to the championship game to face the No. 1 team in the country. UCLA met Georgia in the third-place game Tuesday night, barely edging the Bulldogs and leaving New York with a 1-1 record.
Semifinal Round: Indiana v. Georgia
Indiana’s matchup with Georgia on Monday night was headlined by the energy of junior guard Victor Oladipo and the hot shooting of senior guard Jordan Hulls. The two sparked a crucial Indiana run at the midway point of the second half. Another fellow upperclassman, senior Christian Watford, started the run by nailing a trey-ball from the top of the key.
Hulls followed in Watford’s footsteps by knocking down two more three-point baskets on consecutive Indiana possessions to help the Hoosiers claim a nine-point lead, 51-42.
Oladipo then joined them in the offensive flurry. He threw down a couple of monster dunks after the Hoosiers were able to break down Georgia’s man-to-man defense inside. One of those dunks came on an alley-oop pass from, who else? Jordan Hulls.
Georgia never threatened the Hoosiers again. Indiana would go on to lead by as many as 17 points late in the game, eventually winning 66-53. On a night when seven-foot sophomore Cody Zeller never found his rhythm, it was the upperclassmen that dominated for the cream and crimson.
Championship Game: Indiana v. Georgetown
No. 1 Indiana certainly got the bigger test it was expecting in the championship game against a Hoya team that featured four starters measuring 6’8” or taller. Georgetown took Indiana into overtime on Tuesday night before running out of gas in an 82-72 defeat.
It was such a great game, that ESPN color commentator Dick Vitale asked, “Are we really getting paid for this?!”
Yes, Mr. Vitale, you are getting paid to call a March Madness game in the middle of November.
John Thompson III made sure his squad put up a fight. It was a classic barn-burner for 40 minutes, despite Tom Crean’s team looking as though they had wrapped things up with a little over a minute to play in regulation. Indiana led 63-56 with 1:18 to play before the Hoyas knocked down consecutive threes to make it a one-point game.
Georgetown tied the game at 64-all with less than five seconds remaining on a drive to the basket by Markel Starks, who led the Hoyas in scoring with 20 points before fouling out of the game. Indiana was then forced to go the length of the court to try for a game-winner, but time expired before Zeller was able to get a shot off on a drive-and-dish from Hulls.
Hulls, along with sophomore Cody Zeller, led Indiana in scoring with 17 points. He shot 50% or better for the second straight night from behind the three-point arc and was fearless attacking the basket against Georgetown’s lengthy forwards in the paint.
Into overtime for IU and GU, as the Hoosiers outscored the Hoyas 18-8 in the five extra minutes. Georgetown’s foul trouble put Indiana at the free throw line 36 times throughout the contest. IU made 13 free throws in OT to account for the majority of its 18 points.
Hulls’ averages of 15.5 points and 3.0 assists, along with a 2-0 team record, were good enough to earn him the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award.
"This kid epitomizes Indiana basketball," Crean said.
Indiana passed its first real test of the season and moved to 5-0. Georgetown, who many (including myself) believe to be a top-25 team, suffered its first loss and sits at 3-1. The two teams could meet again. This time, though, it may actually be in March.
No longer does Tom Crean have to scramble to put a team together and compete in Big Ten college basketball games.
No longer are recruits across the nation uninterested in playing their college basketball in Bloomington, Indiana.
However, from 2008-2010, wins were difficult to come by for Crean’s Hoosiers. The cream and crimson won a combined 28 games in Crean’s first three seasons on the sidelines. A commitment from a highly-touted center out of Washington, IN could be said to have turned a program around. That center, by the name of Cody Zeller, is now the leading candidate for college basketball’s national player of the year as a sophomore.
The pledge from Zeller - a decision talked about across the country - provided Crean with his first elite talent to put on the Indiana uniform. Zeller was undoubtedly the starting center from day one. It was almost like a revolution had swept through southern Indiana, confirming that high school seniors once again wanted to be Hoosiers.
Despite the arrival of Zeller in Bloomington, many college basketball analysts, critics and media figures picked the Hoosiers to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten for the 2011-12 season. They did the exact opposite. Indiana finished in the top half of the league (5th) while clinching a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the Crean era. IU advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before they were eliminated by eventual national champion Kentucky; a 27-win season for Indiana.
The commitment from Zeller followed by a strong freshman season had a big impact on other IU recruiting targets. Zeller’s basketball IQ was enough to persuade Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell to commit to the Hoosiers. Ferrell wanted to play alongside the 7-footer. Joining Ferrell in Indiana’s 2012 recruiting class were other talented players in Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Jeremy Hollowell and Peter Jurkin. Together, they made up a top-15 recruiting class for Tom Crean.
One event after another for Tom Crean has given his 2012-13 squad a preseason #1 ranking in both the ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press top 25 polls. Crean’s efforts have been nothing short of remarkable for the program.
Because he wants to be there. He wanted to take over a team that was left a disaster following the 2007-08 season. I don’t need to repeat that story.
As the Hoosiers enter into Crean’s fifth year at the helm, they prepare to welcome another top recruiting class for 2013. Tom Crean recently landed his biggest recruit yet at Indiana, a top-10 player nationally from Massachusetts in Noah Vonleh. Vonleh completes a six-man class that also features great players such as 6’-6” wing Troy Williams, 6’-4” guard Stanford Robinson and 6’-11” center Luke Fischer. Devin Davis and Collin Hartman, both from Indianapolis, round out the list.
Crean doesn’t have as much persuading to do anymore with recruits. The fan base in Bloomington to go along with the potential to compete for national championships is what reels in these teenagers. They want to be Hoosiers.
In the Bob Knight years, his players wanted to play for him. They wanted to play for the cream and crimson. They wanted to be Hoosiers. And they won national titles.
When Indiana is relevant, Indiana is desirable. Crean wants to be there. His players want to be there. They all want to be Hoosiers.
Indiana University has typically been a great school to attend for athletes looking to excel in the classroom and on the playing field. However, it has not always been the best school at each sport, despite owning 24 national championships. Many big schools, in terms of population, are usually competitive in a multitude of sports.
The Indiana football team, for example, has never really been an intimidating thought amongst other Big Ten schools. Fans of the Hoosiers have witnessed some of the worst blowout losses in its history over the past two decades. IU has had four different head coaches in the past decade alone. The hiring of Terry Hoeppner in 2005 brought winning football to Bloomington and hope that football was turning the corner. Hoeppner was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly into his tenure with IU and sadly, he passed away in 2006.
Within the same couple of years, Kelvin Sampson was hired and quickly fired as the head coach of the basketball team. Fans bought into his system until the NCAA entered the picture and penalized the school for Sampson’s staff violating recruiting laws. Sampson left the program in turmoil as if a hurricane had swept through the town.
Indiana basketball, with such a strong following all across the country and especially within the state borders, has always been recognized as a national powerhouse. It began in the Branch McCracken days, when the Hoosiers won two national championships in 1940 and 1953. Bob Knight continued the dynasty with national championships in 1976, 1981, and 1987. Indiana is still the last school to have an unbeaten season en route to a national title in 1975-76. That squad was picked preseason #1 by the Associated Press and never budged.
Following the 2007-08 season under Sampson, Indiana hired Tom Crean (Marquette) to take over the program. Two players were returning and Crean was forced to get some bodies out on the court. Nonetheless, Fred Glass, the athletic director, noted that Crean was the right man for the job. The Hoosiers went 6-25 in 2008-09 and made history - in the wrong respect. It was the worst season in the history of IU basketball. Slow improvement began under Crean, as his team won 10 games the next season and 12 games in 2010-11. Suddenly, recruiting picked up for Crean. He was bringing in more talented players such as Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey and, most notably, Cody Zeller.
Just when fans and critics started to doubt Tom Crean, he took the Hoosiers to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011-12. The cream and crimson won 27 games, including victories against three top five teams. One of those wins came at home against #1 Kentucky on a buzzer-beater by Watford. Consistent dedication to the program, the university and the fans has Crean’s Hoosiers sitting in the top spot in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN preseason polls before the start of the 2012-13 season.
As for football… not much has changed. Bill Lynch was added to the list of unsuccessful head coached at Indiana and was let go after a disastrous 2010 season. Fred Glass did not hesitate to bring in former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Wilson had similar results in his first season that Crean had in basketball. IU won one game all season and finished an ugly 1-11. Wilson kicked players off the team, suffered one Big Ten blowout after another and eventually put the season behind him. A very comparable season to Crean’s first with the basketball team.
Wilson, now in his second season, coaches the youngest team in NCAA Division I-A football. Despite the youth, his team has lost four games by a combined 10 points. Two of those losses came to Michigan State and Ohio State, both very good football schools. Their fifth loss was to Northwestern on the road in a 44-29 defeat. Wilson’s Hoosiers now sit at 3-5 because of their most recent win at Illinois, their first Big Ten victory since 2010. Recruits are starting to notice Indiana Football, as two in-state defensive players have already decommitted from their respective institutions and made verbal pledges to play for Wilson in Bloomington.
So what’s my point? Indiana University Athletic Director Fred Glass has done a terrific job at finding two coaches, one that was willing and one that still is willing, to turn around two different programs on the same campus. Crean has already constructed the basketball team into a great program, and Wilson could be well on his way with the football team.
Maybe things are changing. Maybe greatness is coming.
BLOOMINGTON, IN - The glory days are back on the campus of Indiana University. In fact, they have been back since last season’s upset victory over the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats. However, things are a bit different as college basketball approaches the 2012-2013 season. It is different because the Indiana Hoosiers have returned to the top of the college basketball polls.
It is the preseason… but, the Hoosiers are back. I will say it again and again. USA Today/ESPN released its official top 25 today, tabbing IU as the best in the nation following a run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011-2012. The Hoosiers return all five starters from that squad, and they welcome a strong freshmen class loaded with talent and athleticism. Indiana, coached by Tom Crean, also brings back three key bench players that saw decent minutes last season en route to 27 victories.
Cody Zeller, a preseason All-American and potentially college basketball’s player of the year, should have the biggest impact for Crean’s team. He was nothing short of impressive as a freshman in the Big Ten, winning the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year award with averages of 15 points and 6 rebounds a game. Zeller is arguably the nation’s best big man on the fast break.
The biggest problem for the Hoosiers, as most college basketball enthusiasts have already brought up, could be their depth. In a good way, that is. Crean, who has done an exceptional job revitalizing this program, must determine who will be in his starting five and who will be his sixth and seventh players off the bench. Nonetheless, this Indiana team will be good.
The only improvements the cream and crimson need to focus on is their defense. They ranked in the lower half of the Big Ten last season in most defensive categories, and Tom Crean is aware of it. Indiana’s first practice, which aired on ESPNU, involved a heavy amount of defensive drills. In the meantime, Crean was blowing his whistle every couple minutes calling out any player for a positive or negative defensive showing. On the opposite side of the ball, IU was among the country’s best in offensive efficiency, which made their defense not as important.
If this team expects to win a deep Big Ten this season, it will need to be able to defend. I believe this team has a legitimate chance to reach the Final Four. The Hoosiers can create all kinds of matchup problems with their size, athleticism and shooting ability. Ought to be an exciting winter for Crean’s Hoosiers.
It was June 19 when I wrote to my following about the two squads in Major League Baseball that looked as though they could be playing ball come October.
This ring a bell? I’ll give you a hint: they’re separated by less than 40 miles.
Anything? I’ll give you another hint: they’re on the east coast.
Yes, yes… the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles.
What I wrote was that not only could the Nats and O’s play October baseball, but that it could happen in remarkable fashion. With these two teams, you’re talking aggressive, filthy, and smart baseball all at once. Pitching rotations that can be lights out at any given time. Batting lineups that will drill the long ball. Managers that know what they’re doing.
Buck Showalter’s Orioles fell out of first place in the American League East. They managed to stay in the hunt and landed a spot in the wildcard playoff game with the Texas Rangers. After falling behind 5-1 to the Rangers, Baltimore scored 11 unanswered runs en route to a decisive blowout victory and a matchup with the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.
Meanwhile, Davey Johnson led the Nationals to an MLB-best 98-64 record. Washington won at home. They won on the road. They did it all. Stephen Strasburg shut down his opposition from the mound all season long. Bryce Harper proved to everyone why he deserved to be starting in center field at such a young age; he also hit 20+ home runs in his rookie campaign.
Anyway, my point is what I stated earlier this summer came to be. Realizing this is part three of my series on Washington and Baltimore, twice I wrote that these teams playing America’s pastime had a great chance to advance to the postseason.
Who’s right now?
Sunday was a day to remember for the NFL family and Indianapolis community. Just over a week had passed since the news was dropped on the Indianapolis Colts that their head coach, Chuck Pagano, had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. Emotions were let out from the Colts locker room as Pagano began chemotherapy a few minutes away at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center.
All things aside, the Colts had to stay focused on the task at hand: welcoming the 2010 Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers to Lucas Oil Stadium. For the guys in white and blue, it was all about playing for their leader - ill in his hospital bed.
The Packers took the field first. Then the Colts were introduced. One of the eldest players on the Colts’ roster, Reggie Wayne, was sporting orange gloves and an orange mouthpiece. The color orange denotes an awareness for leukemia. Wayne also rocked the color pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The variety of colors represents a violation of the NFL uniform code, but Wayne didn’t think twice. He was going to play for Coach Pagano.
That he did. And the script could not have been written any better. After a commanding first half by Green Bay and an uneventful 30 minutes from the Colts, the Pack held a 21-3 lead heading into the break. But Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians provided an extra jolt of energy to his players. The Packers opened the third quarter with the ball and quarterback Aaron Rodgers gave it away. Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers snagged a Rodgers pass to the sideline as Powers was falling out of bounds. Moments later, the Colts found the endzone on an Andrew Luck completion to Dwayne Allen. The home crowd erupted and we had a ballgame on a cool afternoon in downtown Indianapolis.
Another defensive stop by the Colts defense forced a punt from Green Bay. On the ensuing Colts drive, Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri knocked in a field goal to cut the deficit down to eight points. Not only were Colts fans on the edge of their seats, but suddenly all the Packers faithful that made the trip from the north were getting anxious as well. One possession game.
"Win it for Chuck." Back came the Packer offense. Again came the Indy defense. Once again came a halted drive by the Indy defense. Then another score, six points, by the Luck-led Colts offense and Green Bay’s lead was down to two, 21-19, heading to the fourth quarter. Every time the Packers had the ball in the second half, Rodgers did not seem comfortable throwing from the pocket. Hurried, knocked down, sacked… It didn’t matter. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck continued to find an open Reggie Wayne. Colts halfback Donald Brown busted outside for big gains on the ground.
Arians had the offense in a groove. Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky had his defense flying around the turf. One play led to another, and another Vinatieri field goal put the Colts on top, 22-21. Deep breath for Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Rodgers would respond. Impressive touchdown by the Pack and with just over four minutes remaining, you could feel the emotions from within the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium. 27-22 Green Bay.
"Win it for Chuck."
An incredible drive was put together using the minds of Bruce Arians, Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne. The interim coach, rookie quarterback and veteran wide receiver. It resulted in a variety of bodily movements by Wayne to inch the pigskin across the endzone for a Colts touchdown with about a half-minute remaining in the ballgame. A Donald Brown rush up the middle for a two-point conversion gave the Colts a 30-27 advantage and left the Packers sideline in dismay.
Defending MVP Aaron Rodgers wasn’t finished, however. A couple big completions put the Packers in position for a game-tying field goal with :08 left on the game clock. Mason Crosby hooked the 51-yard kick wide left. “Win it for Chuck.”
That the Colts did. Rookie Andrew Luck finished with over 300 yards passing, two touchdowns and one rushing TD. Reggie Wayne caught 13 passes for 212 yards and the game-winning score. Arians was recognized with a game ball, as was Pagano. Colts owner Jim Irsay presented Pagano with a game ball and emotions ran high in room C23 of the IU Health Simon Cancer Center in downtown Indianapolis.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, no penalty was issued to Reggie Wayne for violating the NFL uniform code.
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The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are well underway, and Team USA is expecting another gold medal from the American Men’s Basketball Team. That being said, I want to break down the top 10 best U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball players of all time, starting with number 10.
Duncan averaged 12.9 points and 9.1 rebounds while leading the team to a (disappointing) bronze medal.
Haywood was the 6’-8”, 225-pound starting center for the 1968 gold-medal winning team, coached by Henry Iba. At just 19 years of age, Haywood averaged 16.1 points per game while shooting almost 72% from the floor. In the gold medal game, the U.S. routed Yugoslavia 65-50 behind Haywood’s 21 points. His high point total in the ‘68 games was 27.
Shipp led the 1964 team to a gold medal while averaging 12.4 points per game. A squad again coached by Henry Iba, this team went 9-0 and defeated their opponents by an average of 30 points per game.
Garnett was second on the team in scoring en route to another gold for the American men. He averaged 10.8 points and led the entire Olympics in rebounding with 9.1 a game.
Not enough can be said of the 1992 Dream Team. Chuck Daly, head coach in ‘92, said, “This was a majestic team.” And it was. Mullin averaged 13 points and nearly 4 assists per game while shooting 62% from the field and 54% from 3-point range.
Robinson is an NBA legend. However, he began his dominant play in the Olympics. In 1988, the 7’0” center averaged 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds to go along with 2.3 blocks per game. In 1992, his averages were 9 points and 4 rebounds. It was 12 points and 4 rebounds in ‘96. The U.S. won the bronze medal in ‘88 and the gold in 1992 & 1996.
LeBron helped lead the ‘08 team to a convincing gold medal and is on pace to do so again in ‘12. He averaged 15.5 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 2008. In two games this summer, he is averaging 7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6 assists. It’s his highlight-reel plays and leadership that give him the #4 spot.
A loaded team in ‘76 was led by the large frame of Dantley. At 6’5” and 209 pounds, the 21-year-old from Notre Dame averaged 19 points and 6 rebounds a game, leading his squad to the gold medal honor. Dantley scored 27 points while beating Yugoslavia — essentially by himself. He then recorded 30 points in the second matchup against Yugoslavia. Keep in mind this was a team coached by Dean Smith and also featured college stars Quinn Buckner, Scott May, Phil Ford and Mitch Kupchak.
One could argue this positioning, but when you see No. 1, you may understand. Jordan was phenomenal in ’84 and ‘92, averaging a combined 16 points, 3.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds a game between the two gold medal squads. We all know what his NBA career consisted of.
Barkley dominated the ‘92 Olympics. He averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists while shooting a blistering 71% from the field and 87% from behind the 3-point arc. Barkley posted 30 points on 12-14 shooting against Brazil, setting an Olympic single-game scoring record. He played very well again in ‘96, averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds on an amazing 81% shooting mark from the field. Barkley owns two gold medals.
Any thoughts or comments?
As the NFL Training Camps near, I want to take a look at what we as spectators should consider heading into the preseason. Are we going to see some familiar faces continue to produce? What can we expect from the top draft choices? Who is not going to make the playoffs that normally would? …and more…
The first, and probably most obvious, topic of discussion is Andrew Luck. The first overall draft choice out of Stanford has big shoes to fill. Can the 22-year-old revive a city full of fans still mourning the loss of his predecessor, Peyton Manning? Many think so. I, too, believe he has the ability to be a star in the league.
Luck has a very intelligent personality outside of his academics. At Stanford, Luck’s offensive coordinator David Shaw would give his quarterback three plays in the huddle. Luck would then decide which play would work best against the defensive scheme Luck saw from his opposition. Shaw said Andrew chose the best play 99% of the time.
If that tells you anything about Luck, it’s that he knows a little bit more about football than just where to place the ball. He was the leader in the locker room. If a teammate screwed up, Luck was the one to assign pushups. Now, all Andrew Luck has to accomplish is 11 consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins, two trips to the Super Bowl (one victoriously), and countless NFL records. For Colts fans, that is way too much to ask right now, but with help from his teammates and coaches, Luck may be well on his way to a successful career in Indy.
Similar things can be thrown at Robert Griffin III, the second overall draft pick of the Washington Redskins. The big difference here is that he doesn’t have big shoes to fill despite winning the Heisman Trophy. I say this only because there was no Peyton Manning under center as his predecessor.
However, Griffin III still has much to prove. There have been successful dual-threat quarterbacks in the league, but not of Robert Griffin III’s caliber. He was clocked running the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis at 4.38 seconds. He completed over 72% of his passes as a senior at Baylor while piling up almost 700 rushing yards. That’s extremely impressive.
His new coach, Mike Shanahan, certainly will provide plenty of pressure on the youngster. Shanahan has displayed more of a defensive mindset in years past, but don’t expect him to let Griffin III off too easy when he has a rough game or two.
Other notes & predictions:
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